Absentee voting hits record level in Alabama

Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 10:53 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) —Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

And as early voting opportunities prove popular, some are asking the question why the state does not allow this every year.

As of this week, more than 145,000 absentee votes have already been cast either by mail or in-person voting, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. He said that number is expected to rise.

The state’s previous record for absentee ballot voting was about 89,000. Merrill said there were about another 70,000 absentee ballots that have been requested but have not yet been mailed back.

“This is direct evidence that people want to vote early,” said Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England, who is the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

England said he believes the issue cuts across party lines, and that people of all political leanings appreciate the opportunity to vote outside of 12 hours on Election Day.

Alabama does not technically have early voting, but people can cast absentee ballots by mail or in-person at local elections offices. Normally, to vote absentee, people must swear that they are out-of-town or ill or working during polling hours. Merrill has said this year people can vote by absentee ballot if they are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 at the polls.

Election officials in more than a dozen of Alabama’s 67 counties have offered Saturday in-person absentee voting to handle the flood of people.

On a rainy Saturday in Montgomery, people waited in line for more than three hours for an opportunity to vote early in the November election. News outlets showed similar lines in Birmingham and Mobile.

Aviance Turboll, 40, stood with an umbrella in hand to cast her vote for Joe Biden.

Turnboll is an advanced placement science teacher at a Montgomery magnet school and mother of three teenagers. Her work and home schedule sometimes makes it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day, so Saturday voting is much more convenient, she said.

"I say make this the norm. Make it where that we are not making it so difficult with all these obstacles in the way for voting," she said.

Wearing a black t-shirt with the word VOTE on it, Jacqueline Smiley, 36, was turned away from voting Saturday because local election officials closed the line at noon. Although people already in the long line, which snaked around the block, were allowed to vote. Smiley said she planned to come back Monday, but she would also like to see the state allow early voting every year.

“It would be beneficial to anyone who has to work or just can't get away,” she said.

Democrats have made a push to get people to the polls early. “Every day is Election Day,” the state Democratic Party wrote on social media in posts encouraging people to make a plan for voting.

England said he expects legislation to be introduced in the next session to allow early voting every year or at least allow people to vote absentee without an excuse.

Such a change would have to be approved by the GOP-dominated Alabama Legislature. A bill to allow people to vote absentee vote without an excuse or explanation passed the state Senate in 2017 but did not get a vote in the House of Representatives. Merrill said he expects the issue to be considered in the 2021 legislation session.

Asked if Republican Gov. Kay Ivey would support a change to allow early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, spokeswoman Gina Maiola replied that the governor, “is confident in the current process in place and believes that every person has ample opportunity to cast their vote in Alabama, even as we are amidst a pandemic.”

Merrill said the decision to offer Saturday voting is up to local election officials.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened before,” Merrill said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 147382

Reported Deaths: 3763
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9874101
Hinds9821198
Harrison6982110
Jackson6218119
Rankin5417102
Lee498495
Madison4711106
Forrest375086
Jones352488
Lauderdale3412145
Lafayette319749
Washington3153107
Lamar286349
Oktibbeha243562
Bolivar240884
Lowndes232864
Neshoba2189118
Panola218849
Marshall211950
Leflore203490
Pontotoc199128
Monroe196077
Sunflower191055
Lincoln187865
Warren174157
Tate166951
Union165325
Pike160958
Copiah160440
Yazoo152939
Scott151829
Itawamba151134
Coahoma149543
Pearl River149467
Alcorn148228
Simpson146353
Prentiss143730
Adams139250
Grenada138845
Leake133243
Holmes127861
Tippah123730
George123524
Covington120938
Winston120024
Hancock117639
Wayne116923
Marion114846
Attala111234
Tishomingo108742
Chickasaw106932
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96727
Clay89927
Clarke89153
Jasper81722
Walthall76028
Stone75214
Calhoun73713
Montgomery72825
Carroll71415
Lawrence70714
Yalobusha70527
Smith70316
Noxubee70017
Perry65826
Tunica60219
Greene59722
Claiborne57916
Jefferson Davis56017
Humphreys53119
Amite52714
Benton49017
Quitman4846
Webster42314
Kemper42118
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34711
Franklin3345
Choctaw3157
Sharkey30817
Issaquena1144
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 241957

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31809500
Mobile19651361
Madison12964148
Tuscaloosa12946154
Montgomery12263236
Shelby1016177
Baldwin857698
Lee771866
Morgan648050
Calhoun6215119
Etowah618266
Marshall618255
Houston522438
DeKalb480436
Cullman433442
Limestone418645
St. Clair413655
Elmore403764
Lauderdale396754
Walker3620111
Talladega347954
Jackson311723
Colbert306042
Blount287940
Autauga270442
Franklin250233
Coffee242015
Dale231754
Dallas225232
Russell22123
Chilton220638
Covington218034
Escambia197931
Chambers176450
Tallapoosa175491
Pike158114
Clarke157619
Marion137136
Winston131123
Lawrence126336
Pickens121618
Geneva12108
Marengo120224
Barbour117010
Bibb117017
Butler115341
Randolph101921
Cherokee101024
Hale96031
Clay91024
Washington90719
Fayette89316
Henry8526
Lowndes79429
Monroe78311
Cleburne76914
Macon73022
Crenshaw70930
Bullock69419
Conecuh68314
Perry6836
Lamar6678
Wilcox63118
Sumter57522
Greene42318
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
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